By Park Byung-uk, vice president/editorial writer (industry)
This is the second installment in a series articles on leading business conglomerates in Korea and around the world covered by the writer, a specialist in the business world in Korea and outside the world. Park was formerly the director of the Business Bureau of The Korea Times, a leading independent English daily in Korea. Park joined The Korea Post media which own and operate 3 English and 2 Korean-language media outlets since 1985.—Ed.
The Doosan Group is a large business conglomerate in Korea, which ranks the13th in the Jaebeol business hierarchy in Korea today with an annual turnover hovering over 17 trillion 585.5 billion won and achieving 1 trillion 179.9 billion in business profit. Doosan is now a global business giant with 62% of its total revenue accruing from overseas operations and sales.
As in the case of many Jaebeol business groups in Korea, Doosan, too, began from scratches when it started 122 years ago in 1896.
Mrs. Chung (Chong in the MR Code and Jeong in the KR Code), the madam of Founder Park Seung-jik of the Park Seung-jik Store in the Jongno District in the heart of Seoul in the late 1890s, should be considered the greatest contributor to the founding of today’s Doosan Business Group who now employs some 40,000 people in Korea and around the world.
The husband of the Korean woman ‘inventor’ of the Korean cosmetic powder was Park Seung-jik who ran a drapery store in Seoul and women being the main customers, he gave out the cosmetic power to the guests which his wife ‘invented’ and named ‘Park-ga Bun’ (or Park Family Powder).
Women want to look beautiful everywhere in the world and Korea in the 1890s was no exception as they are today.
A woman user wrote in a newspaper at the time in the late 1890s, “The power was easily soluble in water and oil, made our face look white and beautiful!” Popularity of the ‘Park Family Powder’ skyrocketed and storeowners and peddlers alike all came to the Park Store and bought it to sell in all parts of the country.
In particular, the Park Family Powder was very, very popular among Gisaeng women (women entertainers for men at high-class restaurants in Korea at the time). Records show that Park sold 10,000 packs of the cosmetic power per day.
So how are the Park Family descents doing today?
They have all done well, and the business organization has grown by leaps and bounds through the 122-year history since its birth in 1896.
“Doosan endeavors to help build a better future for humanity across the globe” says incumbent Chairman and CEO Jeongwon Park of the Doosan Business Group.
As Korea’s first modern company with 122 years of history, states Park, Doosan has gone through many changes and significant growth over the years.
It might not be amiss to see what he has to say to his consumers in Korea and around the world. Here is the summary:
“Toward the end of the 1990s, however, we started to make bolder, innovative moves to completely reshape ourselves at an unprecedented rate, and have achieved remarkable growth. As a result, Doosan has established itself as a world-class infrastructure support business (ISB) provider, with about 40,000 employees in 38 countries.
“Behind our great success is a venturesome, entrepreneurial spirit. This pioneering spirit that has driven us to journey into unknown territories remains deeply embedded in our DNA. For the past 122 years, Doosan has lived with great passion. Despite being the oldest company in Korea, our vibrant mindset keeps us young and unafraid of change.
“Based on our solid business portfolio, Doosan has delivered robust and healthy growth. We keep a close watch on changing market trends to identify new growth engines. Furthermore, we are committed to achieving innovation and technology excellence, which will give us a strong competitive edge in the market and help us take our next great leap forward.
“Doosan People impose no limits to our aspirations and possess true tenacity and drive, and therefore have the capability to utilize every available means to achieve our goals. Based on our people-oriented management philosophy, Doosan strives to become a “caring group of powerful people,” who will lead the way to a brighter future for the company.
“Doosan’s focus on maximizing our shareholder value will remain firm. After switching to a holding company structure, Doosan has achieved greater transparency and stability in governance structure. We strive to establish a board-centric model of corporate governance throughout the entire corporation, including the holding company as well as all of its subsidiaries.
“Even at this very moment, all of our employees from around the world do their utmost to maximize corporate value and deliver customer satisfaction, as we strive to become “Proud Global Doosan.” For a company with over 100 years of history, we also believe that it is our obligation to set good examples for others to follow and thereby have faithfully fulfilled our corporate social responsibilities.
“We are here today thanks to the confidence and trust our shareholders and customers have in us. Our objective is to become a company that every shareholder and customer can be proud of. That is a commitment we solemnly pledge to all of you.”
One might wonder what DOOSAN means.
It consists of two different Chinese characters, 斗 (Du or Doo) and 山 (San). The first Chinese character (Doo [Du in MOE code and Tu in MR Code]) is a measuring unit in Korea for rice and other grains equivalent to about 18 liters.
The majority of Koreans lived a very poor life during the Imperial Japanese Occupation of Korea (1919-1945) and one Doo (Du) of rice was a good quantity of food for an average family at the time. So, at the time, it meant ‘many’ or ‘big’ in addition to the name of unit of measurement.
The second syllable, San, means a mountain, e.g., Nam-san in Seoul, Gumgang-san (Diamond Mountains) in North Korea and Eberest-san (Mt. Everest).
The present-day Doosan Business Group management may have their own interpretation of Doosan, but the objective interpretation of Doosan appears to be ‘Big Mountain,’ obviously intended by Founder Park Seung-jik to make his business grown as big as a ‘big mountain.’
According to the management of the Doosan Business Group, Doosan is the fastest growing Infrastructure Support Business in the world. Here are excerpts from the introduction of Doosan as provided by the business group:
We provide communities across five continents with the fundamental solutions, tools and structures they need to advance their societies.
We are committed to providing the opportunities that enable people and communities around the world to flourish, prosper, and create a better world for tomorrow.
Our significant achievement is largely due to Doosan’s insight in corporate values and growth potential of international companies. Doosan’s operational excellence post M&A and its unique organizational skill of creating harmony between employees from various backgrounds and cultures, also played a great role.
We constantly challenge ourselves to innovate and develop valuable, reliable products and solutions that improve everyone’s quality of life.
By a ‘better world’ we mean a world of opportunity where each of us has the tools and facilities to reach our full potential.
For some, opportunity may mean having fresh water to enjoy fuller harvests. For others, it may mean having power to light the family home. Whatever may be needed to meet to challenges of the future, we are ready to play our part.
That’s what ‘Building your tomorrow today’ means to all of us at Doosan.